Thursday, June 30, 2011

Love in the Afternoon

Two coral hairstreaks enjoyed a rendezvous in the wildflower garden yesterday afternoon.

coral hairstreak0628 (1)coral hairstreak0628 (4)coral hairstreak0628 (11)Hairstreaks get their name from "hair-like" tails that extend from their hindwings. An”eye spot” of red or blue usually accompanies the tails. The tails are thought to function as a protective device to distract predators that usually attack the tail. This species is seldom seen with its wings open; instead you will see the vivid orange (coral) spot band below the tail that gives this species its common name, coral hairstreak. Male and females are essentially alike, but females wings are more rounded.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


A Friday Funnies post last week showed a 1980s era local McDonald’s  being demolished to make way for a super-sized eatery over the next several months.

Both shots were taken within 2 days from the same location .

McDonald's razingMcD GONE0626 (1)It’s amazing how quickly demolition takes compared to construction.

SQUASHED and More . . .

We’re being over-squashed, but NOT as in being suppressed, beaten, squeezed, stepped on, flattened, tromping through mud . . .

None of that, we’re squashed in yellow, and green with LOTS of yellow squash, zucchini, and soon butternut squash growing in the Frog & PenguINN veggie garden thanks to Grenville’s green thumb(s) and fingers.

HOW fast are things growing?
yellow squash0623 (2)Last week, the yellow squash plant looked like this.

Just visible are several small yellow squash, and they do grow fast !
yellow squash0623 (1)

garden bounty0628 (1)This was the harvest that, Grenville delivered today, several yellow squash and a cucumber.
In the past week, we’ve picked and eaten red lettuce, spinach, zucchini, beets, scallions, and red onions.
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, carrots, beans, corn, cauliflower, are not ready for picking yet – hopefully they won’t all be ready at once.
Farmer Grenville has really been busy taking care of the gardens, especially watering as we had a serious lack of rain until recently. I’m an assistant weeder, picker, cook, and consumer.
From left-right: beets, beans, red lettuce (top), spinach (below).
veggie collage2veggie collage1Left-right: scallions, carrots, eggplant (top) and peppers. 
This is the corn patch though not quite as high as an elephant’s eye (Oh What a Beautiful Morning from the 1955 musical, Oklahoma)
The corn is as high as an elephant's eye,
An' it looks like it's climbin' clear up to the sky.
Oscar Hammerstein & Richard Rodgers
corn0623And, nearly-ripe tomatoes.
tomato collage0623
Grenville is over-anxious to make a BLT (bacon-lettuce-tomato) sandwich with just tomatoes and lots of mayo on white bread – is there any other way?

Here’s an overview of the Frog & PenguINN vegetable garden.
garden overview0623

Sunday, June 26, 2011

EGGS-plosion in the Kitchen

Ever have one of those days?

The “yolk” was on me today, well not me exactly, but the stovetop and kitchen counter and floor.  But, this was no laughing matter.

WHY?  . . .  cause I left 4 eggs boiling on the stove, went to do something else, and forgot about the eggs. It’s definitely NEVER a good thing to leave a pot unattended.

The water boiled down, and the eggs EXPLODED onto the stove and floor. The kitchen and dining room got extremely smoky.

eggs-plosion0626 (4)

It was quite a MESS. Those eggs were a total loss, but the pot was my concern. This is WHY stainless steel cookware is a great  thing

The pot was salvageable and cleaned up well after lots of scrubbing with steel wool soap pads.

cleanup0626 (1)Next time, I’ll take the kitchen timer with me when I go upstairs.
Better YET, I’ll stay in the kitchen until what’s cooking is done.

Killers in the Gardens

YES . . . assassins are in the Frog & PenguINN wildflower gardens, but they’re not packing weapons in the traditional way.

What are they using?  

Their weapon is a proboscis – in other words, a beak

As you may have figured out, our assassins are insects, aptly called assassin bugs. They’ve earned their name by their manner of lying in ambush for their insect prey.
assassin bug0623 (1)Unlike other bugs of pray, for example a Praying mantis, these insects don’t devour the prey in ways you might suspect, like eating it.  Their “kill” method is to use the proboscis to inject a toxin that paralyzes the victim and then dissolves its tissue. And, here’s the gross part – the assassin bug then sucks up the other bug's tissues. The legs of some of assassin bugs are covered in tiny hairs that  make them sticky to hold onto their prey while they feed.

OK, this isn’t a pretty description of their modus operandi  (method of operation), a term usually applied to criminals, and I couldn’t resist using it here.

But  there's (a little) good news . . . Since it’s paralyzed, the victim doesn’t feel pain. The toxic saliva is commonly effective at killing much bigger prey than the itself. Assassin bugs attack many garden pests, such as flies, mosquitoes, beetles and large caterpillars. Most of these are pests to gardeners and farmers, like Grenville. But, sometimes, bees fall victim to their evil ways.
WARNING – insect death scene below
assassain bug collage
Not only do these insects attack other insects, but they can – when other food isn't available – attack each other. Females are considered better “assassins”  as they need protein to produce eggs.

And, in case you were wondering . . .  NO, this bug is definitely NOT one to be petted – unlike bumblebees.

Because . . . Assassin bugs can transmit diseases to humans and animals, like Chaga's disease, a parasitic infection commonly transmitted to humans and other mammals by infectious agents, such as blood-sucking insects. There is currently no vaccine against Chagas disease. Chagas disease is named after the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, who discovered the disease in 1909.

assassin bug0623 (2)How to ID an Assassin Bug . . . Most species are dark in color with hues of brown, black, red, or orange. They most commonly have an elongated head with a distinct narrowed neck, long legs, and a prominent, segmented tube for feeding.

WAIT, there’s another killer lurking in the gardens – the Ambush bug, which kills like the assassin bug but has some differences. 

This is a stockier bug;; also their coloring lets them sit on flowers sometimes undetected while they lie in wait for victims.  The ambush ambush bug  (2)bug has thick front legs used to snatch its prey. It also has a shorter, less narrow head than the assassin bug.

The mouth  is shaped like a spike that is plunged into the body of its prey;  the proboscis is used to jab the victim before the fluids are sucked out.
Ambush bugs have an odd shape, with lateral extensions and rounded projections. It can fly but not well and ambush bug  (11)often falls victim to other predatory bugs like a praying mantis, spiders and (like assassin bugs) even their own kind. Sometimes, they are eaten by rodents and birds.

Assassin and ambush bugs belong to the Hemiptera order of insects. The defining feature of hemipterans is possession of mouthparts where the mandibles and maxillae have evolved into a proboscis, sheathed within a modified labium to form a “beak” or “rostrum” which is capable of piercing tissues and sucking fluids.

Yes, these killers employ unpleasant death methods, but are useful and beneficial in any garden. We let them dine on any pests they can find, cause usually those are ones we don’t want around. But, we’re sorry they include bees on their “hit” list.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Funnies

Just wondering . . .

IF this where in the BIG Macs come in

super-size collageOR is this the new drive-thru entrance ?

Actually, it’s neither because starting this week, the local McDonald’s on Rte. 13 was being completely demolished and will be replaced with a BIGGER place over the next several months.

P1050160It’s one of those fast-food places we never go to eat, but lots of local folks and highway travellers will have to wait awhile to get their Big Mac & fries.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tropical Shrimp & Rice

It’s summertime and after a day of working outside, we like to[taste%2520of%2520summer%2520cookbook%255B5%255D.jpg] prepare a fast and easy meal – not fast food or frozen – but one using chicken or seafood. This recipe is from the Taste of Summer Cookbook. We liked it as much as the Spicy BBQ Shrimp & Rice recipe we tried earlier.

The original recipe called for using quick-cooking brown rice, but we prefer to use the standard longer cooking (50 minute) variety; we use Lundburg rice products – a bit more costly, but well worth the expense.

Tropical Shrimp & Rice

Notes: We increased the rice to 1 C for to serve 4 and used cilantro vs. parsley. We omitted the coconut and added a 1/2 C of chopped fresh pineapple (or use canned, chopped pineapple).

  • 1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 C whole-grain brown rice
  • 1/4 C unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1 small mango, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 C chopped pineapple (fresh or canned)
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley OR cilantro
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp grated lime zest
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cook rice according to package directions. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.
  2. While rice is cooking, heat oven to 350°. Spread coconut on baking sheet and bake about 5 minutes until golden. Transfer to a plate to cool.
  3. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add shrimp, reduce to simmer and cook 1-2 minutes until shrimp turn pink. Transfer shrimp to the bowl with rice.
  4. Add coconut, mango, pineapple (if using) parsley (cilantro), oil, lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper to shrimp mixture. Toss well.
tropical shrimp0617 (1)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Time to Bee-Gone

OK, I bee-lieve it’s time to bee-have and put this this topic to sleep (at least for now) . . .anyone have some tiny sheets and pillows for these guys?
bee naps0622 (7)bee naps0622 (10)
 Coming up, more insects from the Frog & PenguINN wildflower gardens, including a “killer” bug that sucks the life out of its prey.  Sounds gross, but nearly everything is “take-out” in a yard.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pet a Bee – Who ME ?

OK, I will admit to being as fearful of buzzing insects as most folks and bee petting is NOT something I would normally (or not)attempt. A Do Not Disturb post this week explained that bumblebees really DO sleep on flowers. I also mentioned that a neighbor often “pets” ones sleeping on the flowers in his yard.

Naturally, the reaction from folks reading that post was a resounding – NOT ME. Several folks said they were allergic to bee stings. That’s a great reason not to get too close. And one that works for me even if I’m not allergic.

But, being curious and often foolhardy (just ask Grenville), I decided to give bee petting a (one-time) try tonight.  I can assure you that I “petted” several bees. The flowers look the same because we have an abundance of cornflowers and cosmos in the wildflower gardens.

Thankfully, none attacked. It amazed me how lethargic most appeared, although a couple did raise a “back off” leg – and I certainly did just that.
bee petting collage
I read many online accounts from people who said they smiled at the bees or talked calmly to them while thinking good thoughts about them. I did neither.  While I have nothing against bees, this experiment was not about making “friends.”
FYI - there are lots of YouTube videos and internet postings about bee petting. It seems lots of folks do this on a regular basis. 


So, would I try this stunt with other insects, like a Wasp?
In a word – NEVER!

DSCF3359Wasps are my nemesis. I absolutely believe thatDSCF3356 they can sense my fear, then head right in my direction. These were in the asparagus patch I was weeding last week and we steered clear of one another. Otherwise, I know just what to do – call for Grenville to kill them.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Do Not Disturb

Shhh . . . bees sleeping

DSCF3508Last week, I told Grenville that we had lots of bee sleepovers in the Frog & PenguINN wildflower gardens.  He was skeptical, asking “where are their blankets, pillows or teddy bears?” So he blew on one to see if it moved – it did, and so did Grenville!


Ever wonder where bees sleep at night?
You’d know, if you’ve ever looked in your gardens late in the day or early in the morning and seen lots of inactive bumblebees on the flowers. (We’ve only seen bumblebees sleeping, not honeybees.)

Usually, the bumblebees are males. Male bumble bees do not have stingers, so you can take a closer look. A neighbor of ours boasts that he’s always petting them.DSCF3520

Bumblebee nests are often very small so the males don’t have aDSCF3543 place to nest. Many find a flower to rest on.
Bees hold on with either their legs or their mandibles and tuck in for the night. Many  sleep in flowers that close up for the night, which helps keep them safe from predators. Once the day starts warming up, the male bees begin stirring and either continue pollination or search for females to mate with.

bee sleep collage

Research has showed that bees at rest exhibit some of the same characteristics as humans in a sleep period: they don't move around, they don't react to stimuli very readily, their muscles relax, and their body temperature drops. So, while buzzing in the hive is probably not snoring, researchers concluded that bees DO sleep. (Reference: Southwick, E. E. "Bee sleep". American Bee Journal 131:165-166, 1991)

If a bumblebee is NOT sleeping,how do you know it’s upset?  If the bee is on a flower or other surface and feels threatened, it will raise one of its middle legs. This is a sign that you are too close and should back off a bit.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father’s Day 2011

penguin and kids
frog and kids (1)Today, June 19, is Father's Day, a holiday honoring fathers worldwide and celebrated in the U.S. and some other countries worldwide on the third Sunday of June.
Father’s Day observances started in the U.S. in 1910, It didn’t become an official holiday until 1972. And, like Mother’s Day, which is celebrated in May, it is not is not a federal holiday. Last year marked the 100th anniversary of this special day. A post provided background on the holiday with photos of our dads.
penguins-frogs (3)
Celebrate & Remember Dad . . . today and always.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Going Lower

Gas prices in and around our area as of this week are making us see slightly less red.

gas price collage0618Hope they’re going down in your area too.

Robin Rescue Update


Mom Robin was hard at work getting breakfast for Jr. this morning. And after patiently waiting, still and quiet, she finally went to the nest and fed him. Of coIMG_0389urse being a kid he wanted more more more…  Tomorrow i may try going up on the ladder to get a better shot of him. Hard to believe that just a few days ago he was just a fleshy mass, unable to even lift his head.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Rescuing Robin!!!!

NO NO not the Robin from Batman. This was a baby American Robin that had fallen out of the nest on Wednesday. The nest is in a pine tree next to the barn. The mother Robin was very upset with me working in the area so i started to look for a bbaby robinaby chick which is common at the F&P this time of year. Unfortunately neither Beatrice or i had a camera so this is a pic from the internet which is pretty close to what the bird looked like. I moved him a few times to keep him out of the sun to avoid dehydration. By the end of the day the mother was not coming around and the chick was way to young for us to try feeding it, so i got the ladder and put it back into the nest. This morning i noticed the mother was back on the nest, and later we watched her return with lunch in her beak, and Beatrice heard some chirping. SO WHY are there no pics from today????? I could fib and say we didn’t have cameras with us, but we did. So you will have to excuse us till tomorrow for some pics.

What to do with wood and shingles????


Why build an extension on your barn of course!!!!!

IMG_0379Here we are this morning. Poles are set and we are ready to go.

IMG_0380I sort of forgot to take pictures during the operation as Beatrice and I put up rafters and had fun sliding the roof sheathing up and then passing the shingles. But at the end of the day we had the roof section finished which was all i was aiming for today. Walls and door will come in the fall before “the snow flies.”  Stop laughing Possum!!!! I’ll leave you ‘snow bound’ next time!!!!

IMG_0382The total size is just 8’ x 8’ but it will be enough to finally get the chipper under cover and maybe our bikes and things later.

Other good news, we had 1.03 inches of rain over night and a great light show around 3 AM. The veggies and flowers were all smiling this morning.


Friday Funnies

No ifs or ands – just BUTTs

butt out (1)butt out (2)butt out (4)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Back from the Battle

What battle you ask???? The Battle of the WEEDS of course. Last year they really got away from me so this year i started early. No mulch this year, just a weekly run through the beds with my ‘Hula Hoe’.


The Early Girls are living up to their name. Today was a pruning day so all the tomatoes look great.



Our neighbor traded us a Cherokee Purple for some Rutgers. We have never tried this tomato so  stand by.




Amazingly we are getting carrots this year. We have never been successful with them, so this is another ‘stand-by’. We have been eating lettuce, spinach, and scallions so far. With luck the little bit of corn i planted will be ready for 4th of July.IMG_0371 That’s it behind the squash and cucumbers that are learning to climb the fence i gave them. In the fore ground is zucchini, yellow squash, and then the cuc’s. Behind the corn is butternut squash. As soon as the corn is done pumpkins will go in where they are.

Our day lilies are starting to pick up, especially in the front where the colors are purple (Beatrice’s favorite) and yellow.

IMG_0373 IMG_0374 IMG_0375We bought more this year and they are out in the new meadow. Some are blooming already this year, but we expect most to wait till next year to bloom. Even so, the meadow is really taking shape this year. IMG_0368 I realize that it looks like a bunch of weeds, BUT if you look hard you can see some of the pink and red cosmos. Latest barn project is an extension on the side of the barn to get some equipment under covIMG_0361er before winter.IMG_0360







This will be a pole-barn style lean-to on what was a small patio, so the cement blocks are already there. I’m hoping to finish this next week before the hot weather returns. This past week has been in the 80’s and today only made it to 78F. It’s 65F as i type, so i’m happy to say the A/C is off (no pun intended AC) and the windows are open. So if you don’t hear from me for a while, just check near the barn, or out in the back. I hope everyone is having a good gardening season like we are.